CFP: The BSLS Winter Symposium – Deadline 30 September

BSLS Winter Symposium 2022

The Subterranean Anthropocene: Excavation, Extracting, Uncovering
From Classical to Contemporary Literature

12 November 2022 — Online via Zoom

Keynotes TBA

“Blue marble” images of earth are often synonymous with environmental campaigns and anthropocentric thinking. But by always thinking of earth from above, have we forgotten earth from below? In recent discussions of the Anthropocene, geographers Maria de Lourdes Melo Zurita, Paul George Munro, and Donna Houston argue that “the role of the underground has been discursively absent from contemporary debates about the Anthropocene”, reminding us that “the challenges of the Anthropocene are very much entangled with the underground’s past, present and future” (2018).

By excavating the subterranean, we can unearth long-held ideologies of knowledge, value, memory, and fear. And literature has long engaged with this too. The subterranean in fiction, from Dante’s Inferno, to Alice’s descent into Wonderland, to Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, represents underground space in myriad ways - as the stratification of the mind, as encountering the repressed, as the invisible labour of the working classes. Literary analysis, too, engages with a subterranean vocabulary of “mining” meaning, of processes of “discovering”, “uncovering”, and “bringing to light”. The specialisation of the sciences across the nineteenth century popularised the idea of the “quest narrative” being a process of seeking truth underground, as geology, palaeontology, anthropology, archaeology and new ideas about “deep time” located epistemologies beneath the surface, yet literature on both sides of this period imagines underlands as spaces of knowledge, history, value, and fear. This symposium will uncover the subterranean anxieties present in the intersection of literature and science and unbury narratives of extraction, depths, delving, and excavation.


The BSLS Winter Symposium will be free and open to all. We welcome 20 minute papers and panels of 3-4 speakers. We particularly encourage submissions from PGRs and ECRs. Topics may include (but are not limited to) the following themes and their intersections with science and literature:


  • Mining, minerals, and extraction
  • Tunnelling and travelling underground
  • The subaquatic subterranean
  • Water and ice subterranea
  • Soil, plantlife, roots, fungi
  • Oil, gas and ‘petrofictions’
  • Excavation, uncovering, unearthing
  • Burials and disinterring, bones, fossils
  • Stone, geology, caves
  • Subterranean life - mammals, birds, insects, aquatic life, worms
  • Subterranean, ‘centre of the earth’, and hollow earth fiction
  • Subterranean ‘hell’ and the afterlife



Please email your bio(s) and abstract(s) to no later than Sep 30th 2022. Please limit each abstract to 250 words and each bio to 150 words.